In Tennessee and North Carolina, demand for the COVID-19 vaccine has slowed so much that they have returned millions of doses to the federal government, even though less than half of their total population is vaccinated.
Oklahoma has not requested new doses from the government for more than a month, rejecting its allowance of 200,000 per week. States across the country are rushing to use the doses before they expire this summer.
The United States faces an ever-growing surplus of coronavirus vaccine, looming expiration dates and stubbornly delayed demand as the developing world calls for doses to stem a surge in infections.
Million dollar prizes, free beer and marijuana, raffled shotguns, and countless other freebies across the country have failed to shake things up in any meaningful way on the l reluctance to vaccinate, raising the specter of new epidemics.
Stocks get more and more intimidating every week. Oklahoma has over 700,000 doses on the shelves, but only administers 4,500 a day and 27,000 Pfizer and Moderna doses are scheduled to expire at the end of the month.
Millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson across the country were set to expire this month before the government extended their dates by six weeks, but some executives recognize that it will be difficult to use them even by then.
“We really can’t let the doses expire. It would be a real scandal, given the need to vaccinate some under-vaccinated communities in the United States and the glaring gap in vaccinations and the inequity of vaccinations we have around the world, ”said Dr Kirsten Bibbins- Domingo, president of epidemiology. and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.
The United States averaged about 870,000 new injections per day at the end of last week, down sharply from a high of about 3.3 million per day on average in mid-April, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
President Joe Biden wants 70% of America’s adult population to be at least partially vaccinated by July 4. But the United States may well fall short of that target. As of Friday, 64% of Americans 18 and older had received at least one dose, according to the CDC tally.
Some states, especially in the northeast, have already hit that 70% target for adults, while places like Mississippi and Alabama are nowhere near. Mississippi, in fact, has transferred large amounts of vaccines to other states and the federal government.
Amid the glut, the White House announced plans to share 80 million doses globally by the end of June and also to purchase an additional 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and donate it to 92 countries. low income and to the African Union over the next year.
With higher demand in Maine and Rhode Island, the two states have each received 32,400 doses from Mississippi, where only about a third of the state is at least partially vaccinated. Mississippi has also transferred 800,000 doses to a federal vaccine pool. The state has seen demand plunge to levels not seen since the first few weeks of the vaccine rollout, with just 18,400 doses administered this week.
Mississippi state health official Dr Thomas Dobbs said on Friday the state health department was more than happy to help the northeastern states.
“In Mississippi, if people don’t understand how important it is to stay alive, we want to protect other Americans,” he said.
Each week, states receive a number of doses from the government and are permitted to order injections. But more states, including Oklahoma, Alabama, Utah, Delaware and New Hampshire, have stopped ordering new doses in recent weeks because they have such a large inventory. . This added to the skyrocketing federal stocks.
Those who skip the vaccine include Benjamin Schlink of Pearl, Mississippi, who said he believes he is healthy enough to fight the disease.
“The way I see it, I don’t care, because God is in control,” he said. “If God wants you to have it, you will have it.
Gayle Charnley, 69, said some of her neighbors in the small town thought she should get the shot, but she has no intention of doing so. “They just force them on people as fast as they can get them, and we don’t know what the long term effects will be,” she said.
Hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines have been administered worldwide with intense safety surveillance, and few serious risks have been identified.
Part of the slowdown in demand is naturally part of the deployment process. In Massachusetts, 68% of people receive a first dose and mass vaccination sites are closing as authorities move to harder-to-reach places, such as drug treatment centers.
Demand has been particularly low for the J&J vaccine, a unique, easy-to-store formulation that showed great promise because of its convenience but whose deployment has been hampered by links to a rare blood clot disorder and contamination issues in the body. a factory in Baltimore. .
Bibbins-Domingo said that with many parts of the world desperate for doses, the United States has a moral obligation not to waste the J&J formula, which is especially useful in remote areas, among homeless people and in rural communities.
“At all costs, we have to make sure that these doses get to the people who can use them,” she said.
In West Virginia, demand for the J&J vaccine has almost completely dropped. About 42% of the total population received at least one dose there.
This is despite a draw for everything from cash to shotguns to pickup trucks. When Ohio started a million dollar raffle trend a few weeks ago, authorities saw a sharp 43% increase in the number of vaccinations – but only for the first week.
In North Carolina, $ 25 cards helped get people to immunization clinics, but even so, the state is not ordering any new doses from the government for the second week in a row.
Instead, the state returned 1.2 million doses. In Tennessee, $ 2.4 million was returned to the federal pool. This is a disappointing development for William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.
“If the governor doesn’t make a passionate plea – and ours didn’t – then I turn to local leaders of all kinds,” he said.
In Colorado, which has donated over 175,000 to the federal pool, there is a million dollar lottery, and drag queens have started waving to people in clinics during Pride Month. In New Mexico, the nation’s biggest lottery prize, $ 5 million, halted the downward trend in vaccinations and may even have caused a slight improvement, officials said. Washington state allowed marijuana stores to offer free joints this week.
While incentive programs may not have boosted immunization rates, they remain a useful tool for states working on the difficult ‘last mile’ of a marathon, said Dr Nirav Shah, chief. of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and president of the Association of State and Territory Health Workers.
About a quarter of the hundreds of people who responded to the North Carolina charge card giveaway said it was key to their decision to get the shot that day.
“If states are able to prevent chains of transmission that would otherwise have landed people in ventilated intensive care, missing work weeks, preventing their families from going to school, if we can avoid a handful.” of these incidents, then these programs will be worth it, ”Shah said.
Several states do not order new vaccines from the government, including Alabama, Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Utah and Oklahoma. Other states, such as Iowa and Nevada, are still ordering new doses, but in significantly reduced quantities.
Nonetheless, Shah said the rollout of the vaccine in the country was proceeding much faster than expected, and he welcomed efforts to expand distribution to struggling regions like Africa.
“One of the things the pandemic has illustrated is that we are not safe, as a state, as a country, as a globe, until everything is safe,” said he declared. “We should be doing our part to vaccinate everyone in the world.”
Associated Press editors across the country contributed to this report.